NEWS
03/18/2016 17:36 EDT | Updated 03/19/2017 01:12 EDT

Lakeshore Hospital made $2M in parking profits in 2014-15

Gaylle Aubuchon, who lives on a disability pension and needs frequent treatment at the Lakeshore General Hospital, estimates she has paid more than $8,000 in hospital parking fees in the past six years.

Parking rates at the Pointe-Claire hospital max out at $14 daily, after 90 minutes. It adds up quickly.

The Lakeshore General Hospital made $2.05 million in profits from parking fees in 2014-15, but the hospital administration's financial records don't show where that money went.

Claire Roy, the spokeswoman for the health agency that runs the Lakeshore – the Montreal West Island Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre (CIUSSS) – said all proceeds are reinvested in parking maintenance  and related services.

Roy cites repaving, groundskeeping, snow removal, maintaining mechanical and computerized equipment, as well as contributing towards the salaries of security guards.   

However, the president of the hospital's employees' union, Denise Lapointe, says it's difficult to believe it costs more than $2 million to operate the Lakeshore Hospital's parking lot.

Parking proceeds tripled in 6 years

In the last six years, proceeds from parking at the Lakeshore have nearly tripled.

In 2008-09, parking fees raised about $727,000, and in 2013-14, that figure was just shy of $2 million.

LaPointe says that's one of the reasons why her union refused a proposed fee increase for employees in January 2015.

"I know where a certain part of it went to because it's traceable in the financial record," said Lapointe. "But other than that, I have no idea."

One section in the 426-page annual report breaks down the parking lot's expenses, indicating they amounted to close to $330,000 in 2014-15. That left a $2.05-million surplus. 

When CBC pointed that out, the Montreal–West Island CIUSSS said that according to provincial regulations, all surpluses can be spent on the hospital's other needs, including clinical tasks, renovations and human resources.

The CIUSSS didn't respond to CBC's request for a list of the programs or improvements that $2 million went towards.

A small portion of the $2 million does pop up again in the financial document: In 2014-15, some $64,000 in parking profits was allocated to medical administrative fees. The Montreal–West Island CIUSSS wouldn't comment on what that cost represents.

Sticker shock across Quebec

Hospital parking fees have been a point of contention in Quebec, with the McGill University Health Centre now charging $25 a day at its new Glen site.

The opposition Coalition Avenir Québec has launched a website urging Quebecers to complain about the price of hospital parking. The site emails those complaints directly to Health Minister Gaétan Barrette's office.

The CAQ wants to cap daily parking fees at $10 a day across the province. In January, Ontario froze all hospital parking rates for the next three years, calling them a "barrier to health care."

According to the CAQ, at least a dozen Quebec hospitals charge $15 or more per day for parking.

"Users of the health care establishments are unjustly targeted," the CAQ website says, "because they are often the elderly or the chronically ill, or people with reduced mobility."

LaPointe concurs.

"It's disgusting that the institutions across Quebec, and especially in the West Island, are making money off the backs of sick people and their families," the union president said. "It's a captive audience: No one goes to the hospital because they want to."

The Lakeshore offers a preferential rate for patients needing recurring care – but only if they need regular kidney dialysis or cancer treatments.

Gaylle Aubuchon doesn't qualify.

"I would like to see where that $2 million went," the patient says, "because I would like to see my services improve instead of going down."